Magic Forged (Hall of Blood and Mercy #1) - K. M. Shea

Chapter One

Hazel

I crouched behind a rusty blue mail drop off box and held my breath.

It wasn’t the most auspicious of hiding places, but it was closer to the smelly, dank alleyway I intended to hide in than any of my other cover options.

I made a face at the rusty grit it smeared on my hand, but carefully peered around the side of the box.

Gideon of House Tellier—or as I called him, the Idiot—was still poking in the bushes where I had originally hidden outside the bank across the street.

It was now or never.

I scuttled into the alleyway that cut between a popular café, Dream Bean, and what used to be the building of a now defunct newspaper. I had to pick my way around the bags of trash that bubbled over from the café’s dumpster, but I didn’t mind. The trash smelled strongly of coffee grounds and almost covered up the scent of rotting food.

It wasn’t too bad a place to hide. I’d been in a lot worse.

I circled around to the back of the café—which was supposed to be a neutral zone. Actually, all of downtown was neutral, but tell that to the clowns of House Tellier or any of the other wizards who thought they could push me around.

At twenty-two, you’d think I’d be past the age of bullying, but the supernatural community reflects the wild, I guess. The strongest thrive while the rest are all dinner. With my tiny sliver of magic, I was lower than dinner. I wasn’t even a snack.

My cellphone erupted in a cheerful and loud song. I bit back a curse as I yanked it out of my jacket pocket and fumbled to silence it.

When I caught a glance of the caller ID, I swiped to answer. I doubled my pace so I power-walked across Dream Bean’s tiny parking lot and hopped on the boardwalk that stretched around the perimeter of the lake that squatted in the middle of town. “Hey, Mom.”

“Hello, my sunshine! How are you?”

I glanced back over my shoulder, but I didn’t see Gideon the Idiot, so it was safe to follow the boardwalk away from downtown. “A bit busy,” I said vaguely. Whenever possible I tried not to let my parents know about my…run ins with some of the wizards from other Houses. It only made my mom anxious and my dad angry, but it wasn’t like they could do more than they already had. It wasn’t their fault I had such sucky magic. “Did you need something? I’m on my way back to the House.”

“Yes. Your father and I need to talk to you.”

“Okay. I’ll find you when I get back.”

“No, we’ll meet you at the Curia Cloisters,” she said, naming the one public magical building in town. It served as a meeting hall, court, and safe house for anyone in the magical community, so it was pretty weird for us to meet there as opposed to House Medeis, which was way more private.

I peered back over my shoulder—still no Gideon. “Is everything okay?”

“Of course!” my mother said in a cheerful voice that sounded totally fake. “It’s just…we’ve realized we need to make some changes.”

“Change can be good,” I said carefully.

“Yes, it will be for the good of the House,” she said. “Though I don’t know that anyone is going to like the scale of it. But we’ll need your help.”

“Uh-huh,” I doubtfully said.

“You’re the Heir, Hazel,” my mother said—as if she needed to remind me. It’s not like I wasn’t painfully aware I was the weakest Medeis Heir in our centuries-old history or anything. “You can do so